Yes, dear reader, I flip through these pages knowing full well that there are words right now for things unknown when these books were new. I turn to them, nonetheless, as I wage my own little war to think in a straight line, and not be pulled into impossible elliptical thinking by all the pop-ups.
“The malignant air of calumny has taken possession of all ranks and societies of people in this place…The rich, the poor, the high professor and the prophane, seem all to be infected with this grievous disorder, so that the love of our neighbor seems to be quite banished, the love of self and opinions so far prevails….The enemies of our present struggle…are grown even scurrilous to individuals, and treat all characters who differ from them with the most opprobrious language.”
According to David McCullough’s book “John Adams,” Christopher Marshall wrote the above in 1776.
Perhaps spellings have changed, and maybe vocabularies have weakened a bit, and maybe also “social media” is no longer the handwritten letter, but otherwise Mr. Marshall would not be much surprised, it would seem, by any of the news accounts today. So I pass it along to you, dear reader, for what it’s worth, and I leave it to you whether to laugh or to cry.
Well, dear reader, here it is again: writer’s block/slump/wasteland — call it what you will. I’ve been a big blank for over a week now. Yesterday I spent hours on a thought, trying to transfer it to words. I think I wore out the delete key.
What a mystery writing is. Not that I’m telling you anything you don’t know. Why do the words come and why do they not come? Where do they go, for heaven’s sakes?
I’ve not caught a glimpse of my muse, except perhaps in a particularly muscular buzzard, a.k.a. turkey vulture, hauling roadkill into the woods. Usually she’s a hawk, but she could have morphed. Right now I’d happily call her a buzzard. Now there’s a word. Don’t you love words that mean something just by the way they sound? Have you ever seen the book “Sound and Sense” by Laurence Perrine? My tattered, moldy copy dates back to my college days in the 60s. It says it’s about poetry but I don’t think so; it’s about the way the sound of a word makes it the perfect choice. Meaning isn’t the whole of it. The word must sound with the meaning. That’s prose, too. Just ask Sam Clemens.
I hope you are well, dear reader, and can still cling to sanity.
And do I hear “been there, done that,” dear reader?
What I want to reflect on, though, isn’t the chaos. It’s the book on the bed. Throughout all this mayhem, I’ve spent a few minutes every night with this book. Fittingly, I finished it on Veterans’ Day.
The book is “Tail-End Charley,” by James E. Brown, who kept a journal during his time as an Army Air Corps pilot. A kid who grew up quickly in the skies over World War II. To me it was fascinating, not just for the story in it but for the story about it.
Jim Brown wrote a book based on his journal, but it wasn’t published. Fast forward to 2017. His son, Gary, a writer also, took that manuscript and made it happen. He and his wife, my writing mate Tamara, and their daughter, a graphic artist, did it. They self-published and this handsome paperback is the result.
It is very personal, not just because it is first-person, but because it is brought to the world by his family.
I never met Jim Brown, but, boy, do I feel as though I know him! Underneath his descriptions of planes and places flows his understated narrative about himself, subtle and steady. In my opinion, his understatement is consistent with his generation and when he allows us a glimpse into his own feelings its rarity makes for eloquence.
I recommend this book, not because I know and like Jim’s family (I do), and not because I love reading about war (I don’t), but because of the down-home skinny kid who reveals himself in it.